Andy Warhol: A Celebration of Life… And Death, Hype.

Warhol is notorious for his rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. This compromised of his superstars, speed and general debauchery. But this exhibit at The National Gallery of Scotland shows a deeper side to Warhol, one that is concerned with death, religion and politics.
As a commercial illustrator in the 1950’s and 60’s, Warhol’s work embraced the American consumer culture. This was epitomised by his infamous piece of artwork; the repeated Campbell Soup image. Yet Warhol was not purely concerned with brands. His Death and Disaster series displays Warhol dabbling with death for the first time in his career. Critics may argue that Warhol portrayed sensational deaths, such as suicide and car crashes, with a heartless cool. While fans believe that Warhol is merely reflecting the modern world without judgement, observing how the media’s exposure of horrific events is making society immune to death and violence.
Warhol’s “Pop” portraits are also drenched in death. Iconic images of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley were produced following the idols’ untimely deaths. Warhol’s obsession with celebrities who were touched with death is embodied in his expression: “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes”, reiterating that fame is short lived. Press images of widow, Jackie Kennedy following the murder of JFK, also produced a documentary of emotions; grief, happiness and dignity that surround the concurrent theme; death.
Warhol’s Screen Tests, which were mostly filmed during the 60’s, present an alternative art form to Warhol’s ritual silkscreen prints. Warhol filmed his “superstars” at The Factory and slowed the footage down by a third to create a 4 minute film in which every eye movement, every flutter of the eyelashes appears to be a revelation. His Screen Tests are mesmerising and are the key to the actor’s soul. Edie Sedgwick, socialite and “it” girl of the 1960’s, played a major role in Warhol’s films and was the quintessence of The Factory charisma.
In the 1980’s Warhol became obsessed with the Cold War tension, producing his famous Camouflage prints which undermined Russia’s military threats with the contradictory use of bright colours which simulates the American brand culture.
The most interactive and frivolous aspect of the exhibit is the un-missable Silver Clouds. A room full of helium and air inflated silver balloons which float in the direction which you push them. This is an opportunity to experience Andy Warhol’s avant-garde art, where everyone ranging from children to pensioners is playing like they have never played before.
However, Warhol’s self portraits are unequalled in this exhibit. Warhol hits the very core of his insecurities and fears, particularly in Self Portrait (Strangulation) which portrays him being strangled from behind in a shocked Christ-like position-eyes directed heaven ward.
This exhibition gives a deep insight into the chaotic and nihilistic life of Andy Warhol: where superficiality and enlightenment are one.
Andy Warhol: A Celebration of Life… And Death
The National Gallery of Scotland
4th August-7th October
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